The City of La Crosse has established a program that would help to get homeowners out of the floodplain, or at least lower their risk.
About 1,800 structures in the City of La Crosse fall into flood hazard zones. They are the lowest areas of our city and first to be hit, should major flooding strike. And if these homeowners have a federally backed mortgage, they're required to buy flood insurance, often at considerable cost.
But the city recently approved a $350,000 Floodplain Relief Program that would work with families to have their homes reclassified, in turn, lowering their insurance premiums.
Mary Jahnke is one homeowner that could benefit from this program. For 20 years, she has lived in a little blue house on the 2600 block of Onalaska Street in North La Crosse. And for 20 years, she's paid flood insurance.
"It just went over $1,000," Jahnke said.
But if accepted to the new Floodplain Relief Program, Jahnke could mitigate her house and be reimbursed by the city, up to $20,000.
"I think it's really great the city allows floodplain meetings and wants to help people get out of the floodplain and is working really hard to do that," she said.
Projects like elevating your home or filling in your basement could be enough to receive a letter of map revision from FEMA, and lower your insurance to a preferred risk policy rather than a high risk policy.
"The idea is to find people that want to do these projects, want to mitigate their risks and lower their flood insurance premium. Not necessarily eliminate it all together," Doug Kerns, floodplain manager for the City of La Crosse explained.
Kerns said the value of homes in the floodplain are declining rapidly, which is what initially prompted this program.
"We've identified some areas where the values of the home will be literally worthless. That in and of itself becomes an issue for the entire city," he said.
It will begin as a pilot program, with only five homes, but the hope is that in a few years, hundreds of homes will be mitigated.
The city is holding public information meetings, if you are interested in retrofitting your home. The first will be held Wednesday October 26 at 6 p.m. In the City Hall. The next is the the following Saturday, October 29, from 10 to noon at the Southside Neighborhood Center.